You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:32, NKJV)
Growing old is natural. The old were once young, and the young will become old. These things are too self-evident to warrant comment. Today’s command from the Law of Moses trained Israel to have respect for the elderly. But more than that, showing respect toward the aged is described as growing out of one’s fear of God. He is “Lord” (YHWH, Jehovah), the eternally-existing one. Ultimately, we do not have power over the aging process, He does. Being disrespectful toward an older people reflects a fundamental failure to respect God , who gives life (both young and old). So, when you come upon an older person in the grocery store who can no longer push the shopping cart as quickly as you, don’t become frustrated. When the older person is driving slower than you think he should, be patient. The “old man” should not be discounted because of his age, any more than the strength of the youth should be discounted by the aged. There is a place in this world for both. “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Proverbs 20:29). Whether young or old, we must fear God because He is timeless.
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2, NKJV)
These words of Moses to Israel reveal a principle stated time and again in the Bible, namely, that God demands that men and women respect and follow His word by not adding to it or taking from it (Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19). Just as it is disrespectful to put words into someone’s mouth that they did not say, it is disrespectful of God to say He approves and accepts that which takes from or adds to His word. Jesus scolded the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees for binding their religious traditions of people as if they were from God (Matthew 15:1-9). When we change the teachings of the Scriptures to suit our present desires, we are no different that they were, and we need the same rebuke. We too fall under condemnation when we reject the commandment of God to keep our traditions (Mark 7:9-13). All this comes down to how we choose to view the Bible. Is this collection of books merely the product of man’s mind and experiences? If so, then we are not bound to it by any heavenly authority. But, if the Bible was given by divine inspiration, then to change it shows great irreverence for God, who gave it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How we view and use the Bible shows whether we respect God.
1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NKJV)
I suppose the younger generation has always been tempted to grow impatient with their elders. It should not be so. Israel was instructed to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Children should be taught to respect their parents. In turn, this trains young people to treat older men and women with similar dignity. Simple expressions like, “yes, ma’am” and “no sir” naturally flow from the lips of those who learn and live respect for their elders. Even when Timothy would have to disagree with an older man (which would invariably occur as he worked as an evangelist, 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), he was to show respect in his demeanor and in his words. Elihu is an excellent example of how a younger man respectfully approached older men with whom he disagreed (Job 32:4-10). He waited to speak, listening to the older men first (v. 4). He spoke with respectful humility, acknowledging his youth before the aged (v. 6-7). He did not shrink from speaking God’s truth, asking the aged for a fair hearing (v. 8-10). Treat those older than you with respect, not annoyance; with dignity, not disdain; with humility, not haughtiness. By doing so, you will be respected in return (1 Tim. 4:12).
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1–3, NKJV)
God knows the importance of children obeying their parents. When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Mt. Sinai, He made honoring their parents the condition upon which He would bless them with long life in the promised land (Exo. 20:12). The home is the training ground for honoring and obeying God Himself. Obeying parents develops moral accountability in children, preparing them to also honor and obey God. Disrespectful, disobedient children grow up to disrespect and disobey the heavenly Father (Rom. 1:28, 30; 2 Tim. 3:1-4). While the obedient child obtains blessings from God and men, the rebellious child equips himself for a painful life and eternal sorrow. “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 6:20).
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails. 10 For my enemies speak against me; And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together, 11 Saying, “God has forsaken him; Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.” (Psalm 71:9–11, NKJV)
How a person treats the aged exposes that person’s reverence for God. Israel was told to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Far too many cast off the elderly when they become a burden (real or perceived). Far too many prey on the aged by leveraging their fears and anxieties against them in order to profit from their weakness. The Lord is an avenger against such wickedness. He will not forsake the aged who rely on Him. Like this psalmist, the elderly are encouraged to continue trusting in the Lord (Psa. 71:1-7). The aged deserve our honor, respect and compassion; not our impatience, insensitivity and harshness. So, respect the elderly. One day, by God’s grace, you will be aged.
The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness. (Proverbs 16:31)
The aged man or woman ought to be shown respect. Too often the elderly are forgotten by family and friends too busy to be bothered. How sad, both for the aged as well as those who carelessly dispose of them. (Remember, if you are blessed with a long life you will be the aged person one day. How will you want to be treated then?) Nevertheless, the aged are held to account by God. Being elderly does not give one the right to be cranky, unkind and mean-spirited. The honor of old age is observed in the righteous example that is consistently lived in spite of the constant realities of life’s last days. If you are young, show respect to the elderly. If you are aged, remember that your example of righteousness benefits many others, bringing glory to you and to your God.
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
Husbands, the Lord is speaking to us! What He says here ought to grab our attention! It is so important to God that we husbands live with our wives in an understand and honorable way, that if we fail to do so, He will not receive our prayers. Our spiritual life is hindered – we sin – when we mistreat our wives by not learning to understand her. Respect your wife by giving your time and attention to improving your relationship with her. Listen to her and really communicate with her about your life together. She wants to share her life with you. That is what God wants for you both. After all, isn’t that what you wanted when you said, “I do”? It takes hard work, but she is worth it. And what’s more, your soul (and hers) is worth it.